The High Court has told a litigant they cannot argue against their opponent’s costs simply on the basis that the figure is higher than their own.

Clive Sheldon QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge in Monex Europe Ltd v Pothecary & Anor, was required to assess costs following his refusal of the claimant’s application for an injunction.

The claimant took what was described as the ‘comparison approach’ arguing that the defendants’ £85,446 costs sought were unreasonably high compared with its own costs of £44,669.

The claimant said it bore the burden of the application, having filed double the number of witness statements, took issue with the hours claimed by the defendant solicitors, and argued for the costs lawyer instructed by the defendants to be paid a rate of £120 per hour, rather than £250.

The judge said the court would assess costs by their relationship to the work done, not by comparing one side’s with another.

‘It is not appropriate for the court simply to compare the two sets of costs and say that the defendants’ costs were disproportionate because they were greater, or that elements of them were greater, than that of the claimant. It is necessary to look at the specific items for which costs are claimed.’

In the event, he reduced the sum claimed by £11,405, judging that time spent on one defendant’s statement was too high, time spent by a partner personally attending on the parties ‘seems somewhat excessive’, and some work was duplicated. The judge noted it was not disproportionate for an experienced costs lawyer to work on the schedule.